Parliament | Daily News


Develop TRI in line with int’l standards - Navin

While the world’s largest multinational companies are allocating millions for research, the Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka (TRI) is the oldest research facility in the country which was established during the colonial era. Therefore, it should be restructured and developed in line with international standards if we are to keep up with the changing global markets, said Plantation Industries Navin Dissanayake commencing the Second Reading of the Tea Research Bill in Parliament yesterday.

“The Tea Research Board is an institution which is performing a huge task with minimal facilities. While multinational industries the world over spend colossal amounts on research facilities for their products, Sri Lanka spends a mere 0.5% of GDP for research. Therefore, as a developing country if we are to strive to reach international standards, we need to allocate much more for research.”

He said educated experts have dedicated their services to the country for paltry salaries of around Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 50,000 and working for the Tea Research Institute, Rubber Research Institute, Coconut Research Institute and the Sugarcane Research Board under the minister’s purview. “However, if they go overseas, they will be able to make much more. Hence, I commend them for their dedication and for rendering their services to the country.”

The minister added that Rs. 500 million was allocated last year to develop the Tea Research Board. The tea industry is a main contributor to the economy despite the lacking of facilities.

He noted that despite the lack of facilities, Sri Lankan tea still has great demand the world over. “Despite China being a major tea producing country, there is a big demand for Ceylon black tea. They produce green tea and not black tea. Hence, there is a big demand for our black tea. I believe that within the next 10 years China and Japan will make it to within the first three leading Sri Lankan tea importing countries. This is also good because we cannot only depend on Middle Eastern countries to market our tea,” he noted.

The tea industry is made up of five levels of stakeholders, the producers, brokers, industrialists and the small-scale tea estate owners who produce 73% of the country’s tea production. “As an industry we need to bring all these components under one unit. This is the biggest challenge I face as the Plantation Minister, this is my biggest challenge because all of them have varying views on how to develop the tea industry. Exporters are of the view that raw tea should be imported, blended and exported. Their view is that the markets for pure Ceylon tea is reducing. Even I have observed during my travels overseas that pure Ceylon tea is not available on the supermarket racks. Especially in Dubai, the Netherlands and Germany they import the tea and blend it and market it. They are not producers, but marketers. Hence, if we don’t follow suit, it will be hard for us in the future to compete. Sri Lanka has now fallen to fourth position in the world tea production rankings. It’s hard for us to exceed the current production of around 300 million kiligrammes. We can increase production to around 350 million kiligrammes but it’s not possible to go beyond that.

We need to understand the changing global trends and adjust accordingly if we are to keep up. We cannot simply be saying pure Ceylon Tea and expect to have the same effect,” he said appealing to all connected to the tea industry to contribute in maintaining the standard of Ceylon Tea.

Insufficient capital to develop Colombo Port Eastern terminal - Kiriella

Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella yesterday stated that the government does not have sufficient capital to develop the Eastern terminal of the Colombo Port.

Minister Kiriella said so, in reply to a question raised by JVP leader Anura Dissanayake under Standing Order 27/2 in reference to the agreement signed between the governments of Sri Lanka, India and Japan on May 28.

Speaking further Minister Kiriella said, “Our income is not sufficient to service our debts. We need capital to develop our resources like the Eastern terminal of the Colombo Port. It is the same story with Sri Lanka Airlines. But we do not have enough funds.”

In reply, the JVP leader pointed out that Ports Authority has enough capacity to carry out the activities of Eastern Terminal. “The Ports Authority has been turned into a profit making establishment. It has a clear ability to maintain the Eastern Terminal. It was in such a background this terminal was sold to India and Japan. You have spent enough money on importing luxury vehicles for ministers, so such excuses don’t count.

The Ports Authority only had to import some cranes to activate the terminal, and it only needed Rs. 800 million. Can’t you afford this expense? You pay Rs. 22 million as a monthly rent a building for Agriculture Ministry.”

Dissanayake also pointed out that no debate was held concerning this agreement in Parliament. He also questioned if the UNP backbenchers were aware of the said agreement.

Dissanayake accused that the government is influenced by the newly elected Modi led Indian government. He also said that according to the Trade Unions, 10,000 employees of the Ports Authority may lose their jobs because of this agreement.

Dissanayake questioned as to why the government signed the preliminary agreement of selling the Eastern Terminal of the Colombo Port to India and Japan disregarding the objections of the Ports Authority, employees and trade unions.

He also questioned if the agreement is not a threat to national security and the economic sovereignty of the country. Dissanayke said the government is now selling off its resources as ransom as it is caught in the power struggle between powerful Nations such as India and China. Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella yesterday denied the allegation that the Eastern Terminal of the Colombo Port has been sold to India and Japan. He furthered that the agreement is only a partnership with India and Japan to develop the terminal.

Identities of intelligence officers should be protected - Opposition Leader

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa was critical of the live coverage allowed for the Parliament Select Committee inquiring into the Easter Sunday terror attacks considering the fact that the Committee summons intelligence officers whose identities should not be exposed to the general public.

“I think this is an erroneous move and I believe that it may turn into another case of Millennium City,” former President Rajapaksa pointed out.

“When you expose the identity of these intelligence officers, you will then have to provide security to them. Don’t let things get out of hand. If you want gain political advantage, do it on another platform, but don’t betray the lives of intelligence officers for that,” he pointed out.

Rajapaksa made this observation when Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella requested all “Pohottuwa MPs” to participate the Select Committee proceedings.

In reply to the former President’s claim, Minister Kiriella said that the Chairman of the Select Committee adviced the witnesses not to divulge any information that would jeopardize national security, before they start giving evidence.

Bimal critical of politically driven-calculated intimidation of Muslims

JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake was yesterday critical of the politically driven-calculated intimidation targeting the Muslim community in the country. Rathnayaka highlighted that some Muslim suspects have been arrested under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which deprives them of applying for bail. Rathnayake pointed out one such suspect is a Muslim female who is nine months pregnant.

“This woman and her husband were taken into custody for breaking the law on full face cover. She was taken into custody for having her face partly covered. Yes, we agree that it was wrong to break the law. But this woman was arrested under the ICCPR Act and she cannot even apply for bail.

She is nine months pregnant and reaching her delivery date. This was the same case with the woman who was arrested for wearing a dress that had a ship’s wheel on it. Only yesterday she was allowed to apply for bail. She was also taken into custody under the ICCPR Act,” MP Rathnayake pointed out.

MP Rathnayake made these observations participating in the debate on amending the Tea Research Board Act.

Speaking further, Rathnayake pointed out that politicians and groups depending on extremism is using the Muslim MPs as a scapegoat. “The whole government, including the President and the Prime Minister should be held responsible against for the Easter Sunday terror attacks. The Muslim Ministers should resign not because they are Muslims but because they are part of this government. But that is not what is happening,” he said.

Referring to the protest fast carried out by Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera, Rathnayake said that the JVP would have supported him if it was a protest to remove the government.

MP Bimal Rathnayake pointed out that a fraction on the Pohottuwa group is spreading Islamophobia in the country for their political gains which is backed by their own media channels.

‘Lankan tea exporters affected by sanctions imposed on Iran’

Tea exporters in Sri Lanka have to suffer a loss of millions of dollars due to the sanctions imposed on Iran, JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake yesterday said.

He made this observation participating in the debate on amendments to Tea Research Board Act.

Rathnayake said Sri Lanka has been compelled to impose sanctions on Iran based on the United Nations Act and neither the Foreign Ministry nor the Finance Ministry has communicated with the tea exporters regarding the financial losses they have to undergo because of these sanctions.

“Iran is to pay millions of dollars for tea exported from Sri Lanka. They are ready to pay the due amount to Sri Lanka but we cannot activate the transaction since Iran cannot do transactions in dollars. So our tea exporters are facing a situation where they cannot collect their revenue.

The reason behind this is the economic sanctions imposed upon Iran by the UN due to the conflict between Iran and United States of America,” Rathnayake said.

MP Rathnayake also pointed out that the government issued a Gazette on the sanctions even without seeking the point of view of the Tea Board. “We came across these findings on the losses after we called for a report from the Tea Board,” he said.

Rs. 300 mn allocated for Samurdhi scheme advertising purposes - Amaraweera

Chief Opposition Whip Mahinda Amaraweera said in Parliament yesterday that the government has allocated Rs. 300 million for advertising purposes for the Samurdhi beneficiary scheme for 600,000 persons.

Amaraweera said, “By the granting of Samurdhi allocations to another 600,000 persons the government has accepted that during its tenure, poverty levels had increased. Last week, I made a mistake and said that the government is going to spend Rs. 180 million for Samurdhi advertising. But I was wrong. The actual allocation is Rs. 300 million. This is a huge waste of public money.”

This was said in response to a claim made by Leader of the House Minister Lakshman Kiriella that the government does not have enough capital to make SriLankan Airlines and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority profitable establishments, during his response to a question raised by Jantha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake.

“Therefore, he noted that the government has allocated Rs. 400 million for samurdhi beneficiaries”.

Amaraweera said that this new beneficiary list is only for the United National Party (UNP) supporters, which Kiriella had confirmed last week.

Therefore, he added that this is totally unacceptable.

Compensation for Easter Sunday terror victims

The government is presently holding discussions on compensating the victims of the Easter Sunday terror attacks who have sustained life-time disabilities and who need medical treatment from foreign countries, State Minister of Finance Eran Wickremeratne yesterday said.

Wickremeratne made this observation in reply to a question by JVP MP Bimal Rathnayake.

“We are still collecting information on some of the victims who have become disabled and on those who need medical treatment from foreign countries. We are discussing with them or their guardians on how to go about it. We have still not reached a decision on it yet. We are applying for funding support from President’s Fund as well,” Wickremeratne explained.







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